US embassy in Moscow hires security firm of former Russian spy

The US embassy in Moscow is to be guarded by a company owned by a former head of KGB counterintelligence who worked with British double agent Kim Philby and young Vladimir Putin, after cuts to US staff demanded by Russia. Elite Security Holdings was awarded a $2.83 million contract to provide “local guard services for US missions in Russia,” which include the Moscow embassy and consulates in St Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and Vladivostok, according to a post on a US state procurement website.

The contract and background of the firm came to light in a Kommersant newspaper report.
Elite Security, a private company and the oldest part of the eponymous holding, was founded in 1997 by Viktor Budanov and his son Dmitry, according to a Russian business registry. A 2002 article posted on the site of Russia’s foreign intelligence service identified Mr Budanov as a major general in the agency who became a Soviet spy in 1966 and retired a year after the collapse of the USSR. His long work in Soviet and Russian intelligence could raise questions about whether the guard services contract poses a security or intelligence risk to the US mission.

Moscow forced Washington to cut its diplomatic staff in Russia from more than 1,200 to 455 in response to sanctions adopted against Russia in August. Before his work in foreign intelligence Mr Budanov was the director of the KGB’s counterintelligence division, he has told Russian media. He also was head of the KGB branch in East Germany in the late 1980s, where a young Mr Putin served under him. In a 2007 interview, Mr Budanov lamented the collapse of the USSR, praised Mr Putin’s leadership and warned that Russia “can’t constantly act as (the Americans) want” or it would be destroyed. He has also said that he worked with Britain’s most infamous Soviet double agent, after Philby defected to the USSR in 1963 and was once a guest at a private lunch given in Philby’s honour by Yury Andropov, the KGB head who became leader of the Soviet Union.